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Environment, Public Lands Take Spotlight in Fla. Midterm Election

A prolonged case of red tide and algae blooms along the Florida coast is killing off animals as small as tiny fish and possibly as large as whale sharks. (Joe Monin/Flickr)
A prolonged case of red tide and algae blooms along the Florida coast is killing off animals as small as tiny fish and possibly as large as whale sharks. (Joe Monin/Flickr)
October 25, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Toxic green algal blooms have triggered a tide of barbs from some candidates placing Florida's environment at the forefront of issues heading into November's midterm election.

Numerous polls show the environment is among the top concerns of voters, and conservationists say people are looking to see who will be best suited to safeguard Florida's unique ecosystem.

Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters, is calling attention to programs that protect public lands because she maintains that's one way to stop harmful nutrients fueling the state's current red tide and algae crisis.

"Ninety percent of Floridians get their drinking water from the ground, and so when you protect what's on the surface, when you protect lands through programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, ultimately, nine times out of 10, you're also protecting water," she points out.

Last month, Congress allowed the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses offshore oil and gas development revenues in support of conservation efforts, to expire. Bipartisan bills to restore the fund are awaiting floor votes.

Moncrief says the fund has provided more than $1 billion to the state, assisting in the acquisition and maintenance of environmentally sensitive lands that also serve as natural filters.

"To make sure that you have wetlands filtering pollution when the water is running down through those natural areas, those protected areas, when they ultimately make it down to the aquifer and become our drinking water," she explains.

The fund also supports large parks such as the Everglades and Osceola National Forests, which Moncrief says tie into the state's multi-billion-dollar tourism industry.

Moncrief says she hopes the fund will be restored after the November election and she's also encouraging support for Florida's own land acquisition program, Florida Forever, which is tied up in litigation between conservation groups and the state.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL